“Think of America, I told myself this morning. The whole thing.  The cities, all the houses, all the people, the coming and going, the coming of children, the going of them, the coming and going of men and death, and life, the movement, the talk, the sound of machinery, the oratory, think of the pain in America and the fear and the deep inward longing of all things alive in America.”

With this great quote from William Saroyan in The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze, James Houston sets the tone for his novel Snow Mountain Passage as a drama snow-mountain-passage.jpgof “inward longings” that prompted thousands to pack their lives up into a covered wagon and strike out for a better life. Early in the book Jim Reed exclaims to his wife Margaret, who suffers from chronic, severe headaches, “Suppose we could travel to a place where you would never have another headache?  Isn’t that worth considering?” And he eagerly reads to her from Lansford Hastings’ Emigrant’s Guide describing California, “a place free of pestilence, surrounded with pasturelands and sunny valleys where everything can grow and with unlimited water, no mosquitoes, no malaria.” As the wagons gather in Independence Missouri in 1846, ready to set out on the long journey west, these travelers felt “history gathering like a wind, like a river current that could not be resisted.” Jim Reed imagines that his wagon train will be among the earliest to arrive in California.  His wife lays out a tablecloth wherever she can find a patch of grass.  “We’re going to stay civilized,” she says, “no matter how far into the wilderness we may wander.”

If you are reading this wonderful novel and ready to talk about it with others, our next book discussion is this coming Saturday at 10:00 a.m.  We will meet at the Heritage Museum on Donlon Way, where Museum Director, Elizabeth Isles, and her volunteers will have for us a light pioneer breakfast of biscuits and bacon to set the mood.  After discussing the book, volunteer docents will be ready to give you a tour of the Museum an/or the Pioneer Cemetary.  It is so fitting to have a discussion of this book at the Museum where the permanent exhibit so carefully renders  the westward journey of Dublin pioneers.  Please join us Saturday morning!